|Winter Wood at Dusk|
|Snow melting out of the Mississippi river.|
With the advent of spring, I noticed the warm weather birds are returning to our area once again. Growing up on the prairie in southwestern Minnesota, we had only a few types of feathered friends migrating there each year. Now, living on the Mississippi river flyway, we experience many varieties arriving each spring, while some are passing through, that is, heading north to other areas more suitable to their survival and habitat. Having several feeders near our home, we see purple finches, and house finches. Soon, gross beaks and orioles will grace us with their presence. I even noticed a couple of weeks ago, a pileated woodpecker near our home, it was perched on our silver maple. There strange, almost jungle like noises offers an unusual change to the normal bird sounds of the forest nearby. They can grow to 19 inches in length and 30 inches in width. They are the largest in the woodpecker family and have a beauty all their own.
Along with the change from winter to spring, we notice other changes as well. Animals now are waking from hibernation, like the skunks, chipmunks and badgers. Not only do we experience these visitors, occasionally we get coyotes, bears and mountain lions in the area. Last week a man spotted a mountain lion early in the morning, this in itself gave me room for pause. Having little children running through the woods everyday, I quickly investigated the lifestyle of such creatures. I recall last spring watching a group of wild turkeys venturing into our meadow and all of a sudden, feathers and cackles sprang out of nowhere. A coyote had been stalking the group of turkeys and chose this moment to attack. Unfortunately, I did not have a camera handy. By the time one was in my hand, the coyote was gone and all the turkeys were roosting high in the trees. Going later into the woods, I could see that a very lucky turkey barely escaped with his/her life, minus a few feathers of course. Even though the wild turkey can weigh in at 24 pounds and have a length of 49 inches, it has to be cautious of wolves, coyotes, fox and cougars. These wild birds can use their wings though as a defense, which are powerful enough to break a man's arm if he gets too close.
|Wild Turkey in a tree away from it's predator, the coyote.|
Every once in awhile a black bear is spotted in the area, and that does not concern me as much. They generally stay away from humans unless they view you as a threat to their young, or see you as taking away some prize catch (honey, berries, etc.) I remember being in northern Minnesota once while in the National Guard. We were about to eat dinner from an open mess line in the forest, that was the time when a black bear and her cubs showed up. The mother went right down behind the line of men, and she seemed to me that she too was waiting to be fed as well. Being the officer with a rifle, I shot a full magazine into the air with blanks. Hearing the loud noise, she was persuaded to run off at a distance. Someone at that time felt sorry for the hungry mother bear though, it was obviously nursing two young cubs and the soldier thought it might like some of our mess food. So, he threw it some food that our cook just prepared. I was concerned over this action since it might encourage it to come back for more, and with that, it might possibly harm a soldier nearby. My worries were in vain, the mother bear sniffed the food and quickly retreated into the woods without attempting swallow any of our army chow. Later, I wondered if the soldier was using this moment to rid himself of a horrible stomachache later on. I have to admit though that the bear was a little smarter than we were, we ate the food anyway, that is, very reluctantly and with great effort.
All in all we live in a wonderful area of the country. God has made this forested place one of majesty and beauty. It has been called a place of hidden beauty, tucked away in deep valleys of lush forests and trout streams. I have to agree, God has created a very beautiful land here in Minnesota. One has only to make it through the winter!